Building new practices of solidarity: the community mobilisation in crisis project

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‘What can the development and aid sectors do differently?’ Based on our experience of developing and running an innovative digital learning programme – originally intended as a distance learning programme for Syrian refugees in the Middle East, but now grown beyond that – this article seeks to address this very question. Inspired by efforts such as the #shiftthepower campaign, as well as our own experiences working with communities and civil society in the Middle East, the Americas, and elsewhere, we chose not to use existing curricula and, instead, decided to transnationally co-create materials based on the Indigenous principles of non-hierarchical, ‘circle’ learning. Given our position as researchers and teachers with roots in Lebanon, Palestine, and Ireland, and working on ‘unceded’ Algonquin territory in Turtle Island/Canada, this was reflective of our commitment to undoing colonial epistemologies and actions on all territories of the earth. Throughout our experience, we endeavoured to resist projectisation and top-down leadership, to develop strong partnerships with mobilisers, researchers, and teachers on the ground in the Middle East and elsewhere, and to shift resources away from Canada and towards the local mobilisers supported. But despite these efforts, we find that the problems with the international aid system still end up as counterpoints to our work. They are present as we pursue funding, work within North Americanstyle educational institutions, deal with the competing pressures of our work environments and our desires for change, and engage mobilisersin-training who have internalised the ‘non-government organisationised’ norms so prevalent in this sector. Our experience emphasises the need for new, decolonial feminist projects to continue to persevere where possible, and the importance of making space for these kinds of approaches. Those of us who work inside spaces where hierarchical power relations are evident and strong have a particular responsibility to push for changes in these spaces.